No matter how many “takeaways” people will pack into their bags, sometimes there is so much food that caterers have to store in freezers for weeks or even throw away.It is also a known fact that many people in some deprived communities and on the streets struggle for a three-square meal each day.
In 2018, Ms Debra-Jane Nelson, the Head Events Consultant at Think Mahogany Events, an event production agency, started a campaign to reduce food wastage at events by setting up Zero Hunger Ghana (ZHG) , an independent not-for-profit organisation.
She told The Mirror in an interview that she started with the objective of reducing food waste that happens at events and some restaurants/eateries and with time, the donations grew into sharing lunch to needy communities every Sunday.
“Because I’m an event organiser, I know many event vendors , so when we started, I reached out to them and whenever they had an event, they would call me and my team to take the excess food.
“The community development officers at the respective assemblies help us identify communities that need help, then we go there to share food.
“One key Community Development Officer whom Zero Hunger Ghana works with is Mrs. Vincentia Kporanteng-Asante, who works for the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, within the Ashiedu Keteke Sub Metro (Jamestown).
“She provides expertise from her many years of working with underprivileged communities in Accra. She mobilises the poor of the community to be direct beneficiaries of the services we provide.”
Aside from food donations, the organisation also focuses on training on food hygiene, proper nutrition and reducing food waste.
“We are also focused on driving projects to tackle food insecurity and to promote sustainable food provision and to empower self-dependence. So far we have made 18 donations.
“This is narrowing down the United Nations Zero Hunger Goal to Ghana, we believe everyone has a role to play in achieving a Zero Hunger World by 2030.” Ms Nelson said.
Some of the beneficiaries include female head porters and street children in Agbogbloshie, female head porters and street children at Tudu , street children, orphans and widows in Jamestown, The Seat Of Wisdom Catholic Church, Oyarifa; Royal Seed Home, Ofaakor; Accra Royal School and Happy Days Academy, Accra.
Others are: Alko International, Great New Life Academy, Adedekpo School , Accra Sempe Basic School, Bukom Boxing Department and Sakumono Police Station.
During the donation exercises, the organisation, she explained, also used the opportunity to sensitise participants to issues such as food hygiene , sexual health education, personal grooming, teenage pregnancy, sanitation and women empowerment.
“The topics discussed depended on the venue and participants involved. we believe through these sensitisation projects we would also be able to enable them to drive their own developmental agenda,” she said.
This year, in addition to the food donations, they have also planned to embark on skills development programmes such as batik and dye production, bead making, soap making, hair braiding, basic event décor/set up, basic catering, domestic fish farming, among others, so beneficiaries can fend for themselves and pass it to others in their respective communities.
“Moving forward, in every community we visit, we will groom the people to manage Zero Hunger Ghana community developments. Every volunteer will be assigned to a community for planning, execution and monitoring.
“We don’t only want to provide food but also empower them to take on leadership roles,”Ms Nelson explained.
Ms Nelson who was the sole financier of the project when it begun was grateful to Fiona’s Plates, a restaurant in Agbogba, for being the first to support their activities by donating proceeds of its auction to the organisation when the restaurant decided to close down.
“After that, we got some sponsorships and cash donations from attendees of our press launch on World Food Day 2019, and sponsorship from GINO (GB Foods) to feed 500 children at the last Jollof Rave, an annual outdoor event.
“Recently, we got cash and food donations from the students and parents of Aves International Academy in Tema. For food donations, it is usually funded by individuals or companies who select a Sunday to donate money for the provision of food and drinks/water or they themselves provide food and drinks/water to
be donated by Zero Hunger Ghana,” she explained.
To sustain the project, Ms Nelson said she was also soliciting for sponsorship from corporate organisations and cash donations from individuals.
She also plans on selling food at public events with proceeds channeled into activities of the organisation.
“We want to increase our fundraising channels and so all our expert volunteers have agreed to offer food waste management and food hygiene training to hotels, restaurateurs and caterers at a fee so we can use proceeds from such activities to run the organisation,” Ms Nelson said.
Profile of founder
Ms Nelson had her basic education at the Soul Clinic International School then to the St. Roses Secondary School, Akwatia.
She is also an alumni of St. Pauls Catholic School, United Kingdom (UK) and Coventry University, also in the UK.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist has trained over 130 event professionals through the Events Masterclass Ghana Training Programme as well as the individuals who have participated in direct training with her company, Think Mahogany.